Caregiving and Sharing Thanks

Like many, I've always gravitated toward helping others and providing guidance. So it was no surprise that I became a teacher. I'm proud of the positive role models I've had in my life experiences, especially my parents.

My parents were my first teachers and I observed them closely. What I appreciate most is that I followed in their footsteps, supporting worthy causes, offering assistance, working on solutions, and sharing kindness.

In the years leading up to the progression of my father's Alzheimer's disease, our roles became somewhat reversed. Gradually, Dad and my teaching and learning opportunities didn't stop; they took a different direction.

Embracing my role as a caregiver

As one of my father's caregivers, I supported him in many ways, and he supported me, too. Dad was always grateful for the generosity of my time and patience. He offered me pats on the back, hugs, and never-ending smiles as I supported his new set of growing needs.

Caregiving required me to pay closer attention to Dad's health and wellness and issues with his declining short-term memory. It also entailed providing him dignity and opportunities to embrace each new day with a trusted companion. As we navigated our new journey, I supported Dad by engaging in things he enjoyed, but the pace and some choices had to shift - a structured routine needed to be included.

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My new role involved guiding Dad through many things, good and bad, happy and sad, and we found ways to celebrate the silly, fun, and sentimental times. Our journey wasn't always easy, and there were plenty of times when each of us needed a time out. I cried many times. Other times I stepped away and shared a silent scream in frustration at the unfair, noticeable changes. I always hoped for a magic wand to wish the disease away.

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Opportunities beyond the classroom

As a teacher, my goal was to give my personal best to each class. When caring for my father, I offered him the same energy, compassion, patience, and respect as I did with my students. Teaching children taught me so much. I implemented some of the activities that the students and I experienced in the classroom with my father.

Dad's favorite activity was playing silly word games on our walks and car rides. We had a ball inventing new words and adding a new twist to classic nursery rhymes. We explored simple books, words, and sounds that had us laughing, clapping, singing, and dancing. These were joyous times.

Reflecting on the special moments

Like I did for myself, I encouraged my students to journal. It was a time for them to write freely about anything they chose. I also used journaling to recoup from my busy days with Dad. When he rested, I journaled and often wrote about our time together. Journaling became an essential type of self-therapy, and the simple sketches I added helped me recall our special moments.

When Dad observed me journaling, he often wanted to write, so I gave him a small notebook that he usually kept tucked away in his coat pocket. Sometimes, my father would ask me to read what I wrote to him. As I read, he would look at me, stare straight ahead, and sometimes shake his head. I could sense that my father was trying to recall our special moments.

I couldn't help but wonder what he could make sense of. It hurt to know he was struggling. As a published author, my father always had his trusty keyboard and a pen and paper to write. Sadly, his talented skills were fading fast.

Finding the strength to pull through

During my caregiving days, I was involved, embracing each day with my feet and marching forward. Challenges or not, I found the strength to pull through because I knew my father would do the same for me.

Throughout our time together, my father taught me the importance of a smile, asking what others needed and how they were doing, and wishing them a nice day. These were just a few of the gracious ways Dad navigated his life before Alzheimer's, and they naturally continued until his passing.

Lessons and creativity

My students were always receptive to learning and I looked forward to the time when I could introduce them to acrostic poems, in which the first, last, and middle letters spell out a word connected to the poem's topic.

In honor of my father, who always supported the words I placed on paper and shared advice, I have written an acrostic poem for caregivers.

Paying tribute to caregivers

My poem is my way of paying tribute and thanks to caregivers. I understand your strength, determination, and willingness to give your all to a loved one or someone you care for. Your support is invaluable, and we must take the time to lift each other. Thank you, caregivers, far and wide; this is my acrostic poem in your honor.

Caring and compassionate in what they say and do
Adaptive and attentive to a loved one's wants and needs
Respectful and reassuring in voice and actions
Encouraging and empowered by moments, not things
Guide and give of their time and themselves freely
Invaluable and make an incredible impact
Vulnerable and victorious in their deeds
Elevate and enhance the lives of others
Reassuring, radiating kindness
Selfless and sincere with their devotion and intentions

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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